Hazel C. Hong
Granddaughter of Chin Lin Sou
Interviewee: Hazel C. Hong, Granddaughter
Interviewed by: Connie Young Yu and Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Interview Date: September 11, 2013
Location: San Francisco, California
Length of Interview: 16 minutes, 24 seconds
13:40 Hong: My name is Hazel Hong. I never know why or how I got the name Hazel, being Chinese, but I was told that the nurse at the time of birth is the one that named me Hazel. I don’t know why. Anyway, I congratulate Carolyn for all of the information that I never knew. At that time when we lived in Denver, I wasn’t interested in history or anything about the family. I was born in Denver, Colorado. I want to mention that when her mother graduated from UCWC. Francis also graduated from Denver University and that was the connection of the chair that was in the opera house.
14:33 Mrs. McFarland had gone to the school where Francis was at that time. Asked her permission to put her name on that chair for Chin Lin Sou. That’s how that name got to be there but nobody mentioned that.
14:53 Interviewer: Were you born in Chinatown, Denver?
14:55 Hong: Yes
14:57 Interviewer: In what year?
14:59 Hong: My birthday is September 22, 1919. (So I have a birthday coming this month. *laughs*) When we went to high school, there were five high schools – east, west, north, south, and then new trainee, it was the poor, poorest district. I learned a lot there. There was no discrimination. I had a very good time learning, I had good teachers. Just had more fun.
15:30 After graduation, no job. Couldn’t get a job anywhere. Nothing to do. I worked a bit at a photo shop printing, printing pictures. I was in the enlargement department, where I saw some parts of the War and all the bombs coming from the planes, *incomprehensible*.
15:56 Once, I found a temporary job at the post office – my brother had worked there before me. *incomprehensible* He was working at the post office where the letters were coming through a line to be put in boxes. This card fell out of a file, and it was his card to be deducted to go to war.
16:18 Interviewer: What’s his name?
16:20 Carolyn Kuhn: Willie
16:21 Hong: It was almost kind of creepy.
16:59 But the best time I had after leaving school was when I went to work at Remington Arms, where we were finding fault with the machine, the bullets. Each person had to put out 25,000 bullets a shift. All done by hand, roll them up *makes a gesture*. We had to buy cotton gloves and we would tape each finger with the tape because we had to scoop the bullets and [see if they were defective]. 25,000 bullets for each person. *incomprehensible* No discrimination there, I had a lot of good friends. We worked three shifts. It was fun there.
Hazel Hong’s family lived and attended school in Denver, and it was because of Francis that Chin Lin Sou got a chair in the opera house. After graduating high school, it was difficult for Hazel to find a job. She worked at a photo shop, a post office, and a company called Remmington Arms which manufactured bullets.
Brother; Chin Lin Sou (grandfather); Denver Chinatown; Denver University; Employment; Family histories; Francis Wong (sister); Hazel Hong; K-12 education; Mrs. McFarland; Remmington Arms; UCWC; WWII
Chinatown. Chinese American childrenÑEducation. Family history. Immigrant labor.
18:13 Interviewer: Your father was the mayor of Chinatown?
18:17 Hong: Yes
18:19 Interviewer: Did you know him?
18:21 Hong: Well I was with him.
18:22 Interviewer: Did he ever talk about his father? Chin Lin Sou?
18:26 Hong: No, no. Like I said, we weren’t interested in history. We were there to play. In fact, Carolyn and Linda’s mother, my sister, she was an ace in knitting. And every summer, when we would go to see them, she decided she was going to teach us how to knit. My sister and I, I don’t want to knit, I want to go out and play. But she sat us down and she bought the equipment for us and she said, I will teach you how to knit, and you must have to work on three garments at the same time, which she did, so I didn’t get that far. But I am grateful for her today because I learned to knit well, and I knit sweaters for most of our family. I think one of my girls has sweaters of her kids about this size *motions with hand* and that was a thing for me to do.
19:25 But during the War we couldn’t find a job. There was this big department store. They decided they will have a booth there selling bonds and I was hired. But I didn’t seat in a room. I was walking around the aisles. And mostly in the handkerchiefs’ to refold handkerchiefs that people were looking at. They were beautiful handkerchiefs. And I was there for a couple weeks when I went to a lady in the department. I reported that I seen a lady in the shop very well dressed but I saw her almost every day and I reported her, and it turns out that she was a private investigator for the store. *laughs* So I reported her. I didn’t know this at the time.
20:18 My father was really good to me, treating all of us all like a son than a daughter. He got me my driver’s license when I was 15, so I was the family driver for everyone. But when I wanted to go some place, walk. But I always remember everything. He was a jokester. My older brother took after him, playing tricks on everyone. He was really fun to be around. We really loved him.
Family did not talk much about family history. Wawa See Jew, Carolyn Kuhn’s mother, taught Hazel to knit sweaters for the family. Hazel worked in a department store for a few weeks during WWII. She was treated “more like a son than a daughter” by her father, and got her driver’s licence at 15.
Chin Lin Sou (grandfather); Denver Chinatown; Department stores; Driver’s licence; Jobs; Knitting; Mayor of Chinatown; Relationship with father; Wawa See Jew (sister); William Chin (brother); William Chin (father); WWII
Daughters and fathers Family history Knitting–China Mayor of Chinatown
20:55 Interviewer: Were there many single Chinese men in the community?
21:00 Hong: No, there were maybe three other Chinese families in Denver, but mostly there were five restaurants. Men were in charge of each one, no women there. But at one time we were hired to work at this one place and they advertised it to only Chinese persons with all Chinese waitresses. I did like that. Sister and I worked there for a while. And that was it.
21:40 Interviewer: Did you know your Aunt Lily at all?
21:43 Hong: We lived in a small house that she had – it was a divided house and she was in a different part of a house. I knew her, but not well. She was kind of a silent person. But I knew her. She never had much to say.
22:07 Interviewer: Did you remember hearing -did they tell stories about her wedding?
22:10 Hong: No, not at all, not at all. We just saw her as being a neighbor.
The Chinese families in Denver opened five restaurants, run by the men. Hazel Hong was not close to her Aunt Lily.
“Chinese bachelors”; Chinese families; Lily Chin (aunt); Restaurants; Single Chinese men; Waitresses
Chinese American women–Employment Family-owned business enterprises–Cross-cultural studies Family-owned business enterprises–Management
22:28 That was too much on Denver. I came here about 65, 66 years ago to San Francisco. Married and came out here to live.
22:37 Interviewer: And what was it like being – with your father as a mayor of Chinatown?
22:42 Hong: Didn’t know too much about that. Always heard good things about him.
22:49 Interviewer: Were there vegetable gardens -Chinese vegetable gardens to grow food for the restaurants?
22:54 Hong: No, not that I know of, no. No gardens.
22:59 Interviewer: What year did you leave Denver?
23:03 Hong: What year – 1938? I think so.
23:10 Interviewer: You lived in San Francisco that long?
23:12 Hong: Over 65 years.
23:15 Interviewer: You said you spoke Chinese at home? Or you knew Chinese when you lived at home? Did your father speak Chinese too?
23:21 Interviewer: Yes, so we spoke Chinese in our home. And before my kids, because I had two girls at that time before they started school, they didn’t know one word of English. We all spoke Chinese. When they spoke some word in English, they put a nickel in the pan *inaudible* they didn’t speak any English until they got out of kindergarten. Then after that, all of their friends were Caucasian or Japanese or whatever, that was it. My oldest daughter is still the best in Chinese than me. I forgot a lot but she remembers a lot too.
24:13 Interviewer: Did your father ever talk about Sun Yat-sen?
24:16 Hong: No
24:18 Interviewer: You don’t know if he was involved in the-?
24:20 Hong: No, we didn’t ask.
24:23 Interviewer: Was he the one who made the penalty – a nickel in the pan – if you spoke a word of English? Was that his idea?
24:29 Hong: No, mine.
24:31 Interviewer: That was yours?
24:33 Hong: I said, you have to speak in Chinese, if you speak in English, put a nickel in the box to the two girls. Had a good time growing up, the best time I had was in my high school years and when I was walking at Remington Arms. I had a lot of friends. I have good friends out here too.
25:02 Interviewer: Where was that Remington factory?
25:04 Hong: Where? I don’t remember, it was in a town. We worked three shifts, I remember. I really looked forward to working there, because all the people were so friendly, no discrimination at all. It was just one – family, we called it – it was hard examining all those bullets. Three kinds, the first was just a plain bullets, we had the tracer bullets – red dipped tips – and the black tipped – we all wanted them because there never were too many mistakes. Red ones were okay. But the plain bullets, something was always wrong with many of them. They were very careless. But it was fun for us. Hard work. Long hours.
26:12 Interviewer: Golden Colorado…and your husband, when did you meet your husband?
26:20 Hong: His, um, a group of -let’s see We met in Denver and kept in contact after he moved back to San Francisco.
26:36 Interviewer: What’s his name?
26:38 Hong: Harry Hong. And we got married in my sister, Francis’s garden
26:50 Interviewer: And what kind of work did he do?
26:53 Hong: He worked at uh immigration. He was a translator there.
26:58 He was a real heavy person, not as light like me, but he used to go out on watches. But again, big latin people sometimes came for interviews and he sent them back to Mexico, I remember he arrested one, and they say, “good bye and see you next week.” A couple of times, I had to go with him to wait out some person. They were looking for some person. He made me sit out in a car, wait for that person to come out, if that person were to come out, they ought to be arrested. But I guess he was an interpreter.
27:54 Interviewer: Do you have memories of family holidays? Which holidays did your family celebrate?
28:00 Hong: Chinese holidays. We celebrated the most of them. That’s very, a lot of memories to that. In fact when we were kids, red envelopes with the money in it, and we used to amass quite a bit. And at that time there was a quarter in each one. But nowadays it’s no more quarters, they are bills. We used to, Chinese, before new year’s, the night before, we would meet at Auntie’s house, and we would have dinner there, just before new year’s, and when we got our red envelopes. Before midnight, we had eaten dinner for the next day, in celebration of the new year, then we used to go around different houses and to wish everyone a new year, and get red envelopes there. But they don’t do that too much here. I miss that custom.
29:09 Interviewer: Did you know your cousins who were Lily Chin’s children?
29:15 Hong: Uh, she had a son and a daughter. Frank and Pearl.
29:21 Interviewer: And did they go to China?
29:23 Hong: No
29:25 Interviewer: They hadn’t gone to China?
29:25 Hong: No. Auntie, I think, was the first Chinese girl baby born in Colorado, her little Lily Chin. We’re close together. And thanks to Carolyn for all the information. I would never have known. And thank you for this meeting.
Hazel lived in San Francisco for 65 years. She and her children both grew up speaking Chinese at home. Her husband, Harry Hong, worked as a translator for U.S. immigration. Hazel remembers celebrating holidays such as Chinese New Year with her family growing up.
Chinese holidays; Chinese traditions; Denver Chinatown; Frank (cousin); Harry Hong (husband); Lily Chin (Aunt); Pearl (cousin); Red envelopes; Remmington Arms factory; San Francisco Chinatown; Speaking Chinese language; Sun Yat Sen; Vegetable gardens; William Chin (father)
Chinese American women–Employment Chinese language–Acquisition Chinese New Year–United States Immigration enforcement Mayor of Chinatown San Francisco Chinatown (San Francisco, Calif.)
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